Herbivore (noun, “HER-beh-VOAR”)
These are animals that eat mostly or only plants. Herbivores can be tiny insects, such as aphids and grasshoppers. But a diet of plants can also sustain massive beasts, like rhinos, elephants and moose. Even some fish are herbivorous (her-BIV-or-us). For example, pacus, cousins of meat-eating piranhas, nosh on plants.
Herbivores chomp on many plant parts including seeds, leaves, flowers and fruits. Scientists can clue into an animal’s diet by the shape of its teeth. Sharp, cone-shaped teeth can help a predator, such as a wolf, tear the muscles of its prey. But broad and bumpy teeth are better for a plant eater to tear leaves or grind up grass.
Some herbivores have diets specially adapted to certain plants. For instance, milkweed plants make a chemical most creatures can’t stomach. But the caterpillars of monarch butterflies can. And feeding on some types of milkweed even seems to help monarch caterpillars avoid infection by parasites.
In a sentence
An analysis of fossil teeth suggests that some ancient crocs were herbivores.